Jermaine Jenas has said that Manchester United should have kept Romelu Lukaku and sold Anthony Martial earlier this year.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s first transfer window in charge saw him bring in three new recruits and get rid of several players including Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, the Red Devils boss saying those two departures in particular helped restore the culture at United.

The failure to sign replacements for Lukaku and Sanchez has led to United struggling for goals up top, however, with an injury to Martial not helping improve the situation.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Jenas took a pop at Martial and said that it was the Frenchman who should have been sold in the summer instead of Lukaku.

“Since Martial has been at Manchester United, I would say he has a month and a half, two months a season then he goes absolutely missing,” the pundit said.

 

 

“You’ve got poor Marcus Rashford, who puts himself out there every single week and gives his all. We all know he’s not a goalscoring machine or that goal-scoring comes naturally to him.

“He’s got other attributes to his game that are phenomenal that we see him produce for England on a regular basis. He gets all this criticism thrown at him yet you’ve got players like Martial who just goes missing.”

Adding to his argument, Jenas insisted that injury problems so far this season for Martial should not be used as an excuse.

He said: “You talk injuries but it happens every single season at United. Why get rid of Lukaku when you’ve got someone like Martial who is doing that every week.

“Just because he’s a younger player, or he’s more valuable? I’m questioning so many decisions that are being made.”

Meanwhile, former United midfielder Paul Scholes has also criticised the club’s recruitment policy and named two recent signings that haven’t stepped up to the mark.

 

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Jose Mourinho was hammered for much of what he said and how he went about managing Manchester United. Maybe he was right more often than we all thought…

 

Finishing second was an incredible achievement
“I keep saying and thinking and feeling that the second last season was one of my biggest achievements in the game.”

How we all laughed when serial winner Mourinho declared that leading United to a runners-up finish was up there with the two Champions League titles and four domestic leagues he has conquered. At the time, it reeked of self-preservation.

But Mourinho knew. And he doubled down on that view after he was sacked. “If I tell you, for example, that I consider one of the best jobs of my career was to finish second with Man United in the Premier League, you will say, ‘this guy is crazy,’” Mourinho said a month after being shown the door. “‘He won 25 titles and he is saying that a second position was one of his best achievements?’”

“I keep saying this because people don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.”

In the context of United’s current fortunes, maybe Mourinho deserves a stand to be named after him at Old Trafford after coming 19 points behind Man City, but comfortably ahead of Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea. His squad was very similar to the one currently disgracing themselves, with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez (the Chilean joined halfway through the season) the only major exits, while Solskjaer has the luxury of the centre-back that Mourinho pleaded for.

 

Mourinho knew Pogba can’t be trusted
Paul Pogba may have been United’s most technically gifted player of the last three seasons, but Mourinho was right. The midfielder is a ‘virus’ in the dressing room.

“You don’t respect players and supporters. And you kill the mentality of the good honest people around you,” Mourinho is reported to have told Pogba after a draw at Southampton last year. “You are like a person with a flu, with a virus in a closed room – you pass that virus to the others.”

By that time, the problems at United had split supporters and pundits into two separate factions: Jose vs Pogba. Shortly after, it was Pogba who claimed victory, and his sudden-but-fleeting upturn in form upon Mourinho’s sacking gave ammunition to those who believed the manager was the problem.

But Pogba hasn’t changed. Yet again he went out of his way to engineer a move out of Old Trafford this summer and his form this season – when fit – has been as hopelessly inconsistent as we came to expect from the Frenchman under Mourinho.

Pogba can’t claim that Mourinho didn’t try. The manager tried a raft of formations and midfield personnel in an effort to get the best out of the record signing, and even after Pogba told United he wanted to leave having returned to work with a World Cup winner’s medal fluffing his ego, Mourinho offered an olive branch in the form of the United vice-captaincy. Pogba (metaphorically we hope) wiped his arse with the armband.

But United don’t learn. The hierarchy at Old Trafford are reportedly ready to offer Pogba a pay-rise in a vain attempt to persuade him that his future lies with the Red Devils. But Pogba wants out and he could not have made it clearer, with his words or his form.

 

Marcus Rashford isn’t a natural centre-forward
When Mourinho signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku in each of his first two summers in charge at Old Trafford, the worry for many was what their arrival meant for Rashford’s prospects. Their concerns were misplaced.

Rashford ended up making more appearances under Mourinho than any other Manchester United player and played the fourth-highest number of minutes. The problem for some was that Rashford spent most of his time on the pitch shunted out wide.

Around 50 of the academy graduate’s 125 appearances under Mourinho came as a centre-forward, with 32 of those coming from the start. According to Transfermarkt, he averaged a goal every 219 minutes while leading the line. Hardly prolific numbers.

Mourinho recognised that Rashford’s qualities were more suited to a wide forward, a player who can lead breaks rather than one who can receive the ball with his back to goal. But Rashford still saw himself as a No.9. The ex-manager explained his thinking last month.

“I am not going to say he cannot ever be a number nine, he can be a dangerous number nine especially if the opposition is not pragmatic, is not close and is giving spaces to attack. He can be dangerous in transitions,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “But when Manchester United is a team that normally plays against teams who go to Old Trafford, close the door, bring the bus, bring the double bus, he is not a striker to play with his back to the goal.

“He is not the target man, he doesn’t score as many goals as a striker should do. So I think from the side you will get him to numbers of 10-12 goals per season.”

It seems Mourinho was right. Solskjaer immediately placed his faith in Rashford as his leading centre-forward – to Lukaku’s cost – but after an initial burst, the England attacker’s productivity has waned, as has his involvement in matches. Harry Maguire had more touches in the Newcastle box than Rashford – or any other United team-mate – on Sunday. Rashford looks so far off the pace as a leading striker that many people are assuming he is carrying an injury, despite Solskjaer’s insistence that he is 100 per cent fit.

The penny also appeared to have dropped with Solskjaer, who started the season with Martial as his starting centre-forward, with Rashford wide. But with Martial sidelined, Solskjaer has little option to persist with Rashford through the middle.

 

He knew Andreas Pereira wasn’t good enough
Mourinho had Pereira pegged as a continental Cleverley as soon as he got a decent look at the once-capped Brazil midfielder.

The 23-year-old spent the first two years of Mourinho’s United reign in Spain, initially with Granada before he defied the manager to go to Valencia for a season in 2017 – a decision which ‘disappointed’ Mourinho:  “His decision can be considered a young player who wants to play every weekend but also a young player that is not ready to fight for something difficult.”

Mourinho made his peace with Pereira’s choice and the manager offered the midfielder a chance to impress during United’s pre-season tour in 2018 while their World Cup players were still on holiday. In the United States, Pereira played as a No.6 where he eventually made his first Premier League start on the opening weekend. By the end of the following weekend, he was done in Mourinho’s mind. Pereira was hooked at half-time during a defeat which rang alarm bells at Old Trafford.

His next start came almost four months later when Mourinho rested key players for a Champions League group game at Valencia with qualification already assured. Back at the stadium he spent the previous season, Pereira was wretched. He was dropped again from Mourinho’s squad for the fateful trip to Liverpool, as he had been for the previous eight Premier League matches.

Solskjaer came in and having failed to convince Louis van Gaal or Mourinho, he was given a third opportunity. The current boss certainly appears to fancy the Belgium-born Brazilian more than the previous two managers – God only knows why. Pereira is a player without a position; he looks out of his depth wherever he is played. Fred may be the current poster boy for United’s slide but Pereira is equally as inept, as Mourinho quickly learned once he had the chance to see for himself.

 

He saw something in McTominay
When Mourinho brought Scott McTominay into his side and played him on an increasingly regular basis, even some within the club – his former academy team-mates among them – are understood to have been utterly baffled by what the manager saw in the gangly midfielder.

Not only did Mourinho play McTominay, he held the Scotland youngster up as an example to the rest of his high-profile, underperforming squad. Mourinho invented an award for McTominay at the end of the 2017-18 season, when United somehow finished second, so that he could be brought up on stage and paraded in front of the MUTV cameras as the template for his team-mates.

When Mourinho went, so too it was presumed would McTominay chances of regular involvement. Indeed, in his attempt to paint himself as the anti-Jose, Solskjaer used McTominay for a single minute in his first eight Premier League matches in charge.

But the midfielder has shown the kind of attitude and ‘special character’ that Mourinho saw in him to establish himself as one of the first names on Solskjaer’s team-sheet. Unfortunately for McTominay, any praise he receives is so often prefixed with “he’s no Keane/Robson/Scholes/Edwards” but he cannot be held accountable for the decline in standards at Old Trafford, especially while he is one of the few players trying to uphold them.

 

Ian Watson

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Michael Owen has questioned Manchester United’s links to Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson after allowing Romelu Lukaku to leave in the summer, suggesting that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has “knowingly weakened his team”.

Lukaku was offloaded to Inter for £75 million, with Solskjaer deeming the Belgium international and Alexis Sanchez to be surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.

With United’s well documented issues with scoring goals – again on show in their 0-0 draw with AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League – there has been speculation suggesting Callum Wilson could be drafted in in January.

Owen has suggested they may as well have retained the services of Lukaku and Sanchez.

He told BT Sport: “You have to see progress, you have to see the right type of player being brought in that actually goes down this philosophy.

“If they don’t buy young players, English players, whatever that might be, that’s actually along the lines of what we’re talking, then it really is a worry.

“People like Wilson from Bournemouth are being linked at the moment.

“Now, if a lad in his late 20s, who’s a very good player, in the England squad, no problem with him, very good player.

“But if that’s where you’re going to go back to, then all of a sudden I’m thinking ‘what’s the point in getting rid of Lukaku?’.”

Owen has accused Solskjaer of purposefully weakening the Man Utd squad, in an attempt to take the club back to square one.

The ex-Red Devils striker added: “In many ways Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has knowingly weakened his team.

“Getting rid of people like Lukaku and [Ander] Herrera and [Matteo] Darmian and Sanchez, [Chris] Smalling – he knows that he could improve his team with those players.

“But I think he’s almost taken the view that you’ve got to take a couple of steps backwards to then move forwards.

“[Solskjaer] has done that on purpose thinking ‘right, we’ve just got to rid ourselves of players that, okay they’re probably better than what we’ve got, but are they going to take us to where we want to go?’ – and that answer is no.

“Then you’re almost starting from scratch and I think that’s what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s done.”

 

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Alexis Sanchez says his loan move to Inter Milan has helped him fall “in love with football again” after leaving Manchester United.

Sanchez was one of the most expensive transfer mistakes in history when he joined Manchester United from Arsenal in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January 2018.

The Chilean was given the biggest wage in Premier League history for little return, and joined Inter Milan on a season-long loan in the summer.

“Coming to Inter was a bit like falling in love with football again,” Sanchez said in a recent interview with UEFA.

“I already knew the coach and some of the players, and I believe that the club are preparing something beautiful for the future.

“If I’m not mistaken, Inter haven’t won anything for seven or eight years. It was a bit like finding my love for football again, together with my desire to win something with this club.”

 

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Headline you never thought you’d read
‘Girl in a coffin holds up Lukaku cut-out as Man Utd striker parties at bizarre LA club including air hostess swinging on mini private jet’ – The Sun.

 

F***ing hell
‘HARRY MAGUIRE could be left in Leicester limbo as the Manchester giants battle to sign him,’ writes Neil Custis on the back page of The Sun.

Mediawatch did think that sounded a little too dramatic (after all, he seems quite happy in Leicester) but then we checked on Wikipedia, which tells us that ‘limbo’ is ‘a doctrine concerning the afterlife condition of those who die in original sin without being assigned to the Hell of the Damned’.

A pretty fair description of Manchester United.

As you were.

 

Rubbish bag

It’s at this juncture that Ian McGarry needed to back off. After all, the horse has just told you that nothing came out of his mouth. But no, he came back:

He probably would. But he didn’t. And that is surely the bloody point.

 

Mo Salah, Salah…
Well played, Transfer Window Podcast, mind. Just by discussing the possibility of Mo Salah joining Real Madrid for £200m next summer, they prompted this tsunami of Liverpool transfer gossip in an otherwise quiet summer…

‘Liverpool would consider selling Mo Salah to land Nicolas Pepe’ – Daily Star.

‘Real Madrid splashing £200m on Liverpool star Mo Salah could prompt this response’ – Daily Star.

‘Transfer news LIVE: £200m Salah claim, Man Utd eye £58m star, Newcastle ‘close to deal” – Daily Star.

‘Liverpool transfer news LIVE – Nicolas Pepe to ‘replace Mohamed Salah’, Sepp van den Berg linked, Simon Mignolet latest’ – Liverpool Echo.

And most ridiculously of all, an 889-word opinion piece in the Liverpool Echo, headlined ‘Nicolas Pepe in, Mohamed Salah out? The transfer that wouldn’t make sense for Liverpool’. These are clearly desperate times.

To be fair, that is the sweetest of pieces from Chris Beesley, who tries to earnestly argue that there are no clubs in world football that could possibly tempt Salah away from Liverpool.

‘While the sale of Coutinho is cited as an example of Liverpool selling to buy, the reality is that some 18 months on from the Brazilian’s defection to Barcelona, the transfer landscape has shifted considerably at Anfield.

‘The Reds are of course now not only European champions for the first time in 14 years but a team who have displayed the incredible consistency to accumulate 97 points over a Premier League season and defeat the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona en route to their victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.

‘In short, the desire of manager Jurgen Klopp and owners FSG to turn Anfield into a final destination appears to be taking root.’

In short though, Liverpool are still almost 30 years away from winning the Premier League title. The idea that all Liverpool’s players would turn down approaches from all other clubs is incredibly naive. If Manchester United could not keep hold of Ronaldo after winning three consecutive Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy, then what are the chances of Liverpool keeping all their players after 30 title-less seasons? Is this all because ‘it means more’ at Liverpool?

‘While the likes of Salah and team-mate Sadio Mane, who joined Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in a three-way tie for the Premier League’s Golden Boot last season will inevitably attract admiring glances and the inevitable transfer speculation from the game’s traditional powerhouses, the lustre of the Bernabeu or Camp Nou is no longer as bright as it once was.’

Is it not? We are pretty sure that 13-times European champions Real Madrid – the richest club in the world, according to Deloitte – have just signed Eden Hazard and are chasing Paul Pogba despite spending over £270m already this summer, while La Liga champions Barcelona – the second richest club in the world – have just bought the most exciting young midfielder in world football. Still, carry on…

‘Figures this month from respected football analysts, transfermarkt, value Liverpool’s squad at a billion pounds (second only in world football to Manchester City at £1.05billion) and eclipsing the likes of Barcelona (third, £958.95million) and Real Madrid (eighth, £784.28m) so it remains curious at to where Salah might go.’

Sorry, but, erm what? In attempting to explain why Liverpool can keep hold of their stars, the Liverpool Echo have seemingly stumbled on exactly the opposite.

According to Deloitte, Liverpool are the seventh richest club in world football; if their squad is ‘worth’ more than financially more powerful clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSG, that makes them vulnerable rather than strong. It’s a reason why Salah might leave, not a reason why not.

Chelsea are above Real Madrid in that list from ‘respected football analysts, transfermarkt’, but that did not prevent Eden Hazard from leaving the former for the latter. And the same applies to Lucas Hernandez, Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich.

‘As well as being the poster boy for Liverpool’s considerable global fanbase, he is also an iconic figure beyond the boundaries of Egypt across the whole Arab world.

‘Not only do the Reds not need to sell Salah but it now remains highly questionable why a player of his talents would even want to go anywhere else to further his career.’

‘Highly questionable’ to Liverpool fans, yes. But to pretty much everybody else in the western world? Watch this space.

 

Call me
Mediawatch is not sure which part of this Daily Express digital story…

‘None of us have forgotten’ – Jurgen Klopp told to make Philippe Coutinho Liverpool call’

…aggravates us the most.

Is it…

a) That Jurgen Klopp has been ‘told’ by one John Aldridge.

or

b) That the ‘Philippe Coutinho Liverpool call’ he is being ‘told’ to make is not a ‘call’ at all but merely a decision not to sign him.

Still, we clicked, so we guess that makes us the idiots here.

 

Phil yer boots
Mediawatch agrees with The Sun’s Chief Sports Writer Dave Kidd that Aidy Boothroyd should pay for the ‘smart-alec decision’ he made to rest Phil Foden at the European Under-21 Championship, but quite how he gets here is another matter…

‘Foden is 19 now and has started just three Premier League matches (while winning two title medals) – so the brilliant midfielder needs more football, not less.

‘It is unlikely, but would be beneficial, if Pep Guardiola could find a club he’d trust to take Foden on loan for a season.’

Well that’s a little misleading because those three Premier League starts came in the final seven games of last season when City were chasing the title, so there is little doubt that Guardiola trusts Foden. Indeed, he trusted him to the tune of over 1000 minutes in all competitions last season, and only three other English teenagers could match that at top-flight clubs last season: Ryan Sessegnon, Jadon Sancho and Dwight McNeil.

It’s worth remembering – because people like Kidd forget – that Paul Scholes did not play any first-team football until he was two months off his 20th birthday and it really did not seem to do him any harm.

 

Recommended reading of the day
David Squires on women’s football and VAR

Richard Williams on Mino Raiola

Jack Lang on Alexis Sanchez at Copa America

 

 

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